2012 Tesla Model S Electric Sedan: 238 Miles Of Range, Says Motor Trend

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2012 Tesla Model S, brief test drive, New York City, July 2012

2012 Tesla Model S, brief test drive, New York City, July 2012

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Whether you drive gas, electric or anything else, there are dozens of different factors that affect your car's efficiency.

That's why, even though Tesla Motors claims a range of 265 miles for its 85 kWh Model S, we've been eager to see how far it can go in realistic day-to-day driving.

Thanks to Motor Trend, we now know. The magazine borrowed Tesla CEO Elon Musk's own Model S and ran it through a series of tests, culminating in a drive down I-15 and then up the Pacific Coast Highway to measure its range.

Starting with a full charge from the California Speedway, where the team logged performance figures, the car was driven down to San Diego on I-15 in 55-69mph traffic, before heading North again using I-5, where much of the driving was stop-and-go.

The rest of the journey North to Redondo Beach was on the PCH, with plenty of stops at intersections. Overall distance? 240 miles.

With a brief stop to top-up within a few miles of their destination, Motor Trend calculated a total range of 238 miles.

That's 11 percent short of the claimed 265 miles, and they note that the trip involved fairly careful driving too. A failure, then?

Not necessarily. While the quoted range wasn't reached, the driver did point out that the trip involved five hours of continuous driving. That's the sort of distance and time that few drivers would go without needing to stop anyway, regardless of how far their battery or gas tank can take them.

The other figures are equally impressive. The drive depleted 93 percent of the battery's capacity, or 78.2 kWh of electricity. Using a gasoline energy equivalency of 2.32 gallons, the car achieved 100.7 mpg-equivalent. Their chase car, a BMW 528i, managed 30.1 mpg. And quick though the BMW is, it doesn't have anything like the potential performance of the Model S.

The 265-mile range may be achievable over long stretches at lower speeds, but even for those drivers not reaching the official target, a range of over 200 miles isn't to be sniffed at.

And save for a criticism about under-padded seats, the car attracted plenty of praise in other areas too.

You can read our own thoughts on the Model S by clicking on our first drive report. And you can leave us your thoughts on the Tesla's range in the comments section below.


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Comments (15)
  1. One important detail. It is not clear from the MT review whether they charged to 'extended range' capacity or just 'standard'. Its a huge deal if they are reporting the final range assessment, and the fact that they only depleted to 93% suggests they probably only did a standard charge. Also, they failed to mention that the charge took 'longer' than normal, as would be expected with an extended range charge. Extended range (which is what the EPA used) would probably have achieved close to 265 miles, as reported.

  2. Good point RD. Let me add a couple more unknowns that should have been in the article: A/C on or off? 1 or 2 persons? Those factors affect range.

    I'm not sold on M/T doing well with measuring things like range on the Telsa S. I'd like to see the good folks at GCR and CR do independent range testing. Still, like the article said, over 5 hours n 200 miles is damn good for an EV. I'll wait to see how the 40 n 60W battery packs perform range wise before passing judgment on the Model S.

  3. Really, going to trust GCR more than Motor Trend and more than the EPA?

    CR would be nice, but the number will probably be very low. They get shockingly poor MPG for the Prius, numbers that I don't feel are representative. But CR at least seems to have a consistent test method.

  4. Vote of no confidence in us, John? ;)

  5. Oh, I forgot you could read these notes. I would like to revise and extend my comment.

    Yes it would be wonderful to get a range measurement from GCR staff.

  6. MT later confirmed they charged in range mode. They also state that the climate controls were on vent, there were 2 people in the car and they had the windows down (at some points). Also it was a hilly route, and they had to brake/hard accelerate at times. In other words real world driving for which 5 hours and 238 miles in very impressive.

  7. Agreed.

  8. MT says they went 233.7 miles and used 78.2kWh. I think car would probably make more than 238 miles because they used used only 93% and I dont believe that car can go only 4 miles (as predicted) with 7% of battery. I would guess there is some small reserve which is usually not shown. But still using 93% of battery is more than real life situation so I have to agree with their numbers.

    If somebody is interested, My guess is that it is more than possible in real situation go this far:
    233.7 miles / 78.2kWh * 84kWh = 251 miles. (It is only my guess based on numbers given by Motor Trend - dont take it too seriosly)

  9. The one issue most of the media misses is that as batteries are used and aged, they loose capacity or range. All new electronic devices whether cars or cell phones work great when they are new. What was mileage in this vehicle? Probably not much. MT come back every year and run the same test! Then we will see how good a job Tesla did! Let's hear from Roadster owners and if they have any data, real data.

  10. That seems like a valid and reasonable point to make. Time will tell, hmm?

  11. several questions all aimed at making MT out to be morons or shysters. of course they charged it correctly i mean like cmon. i fully expected them to get what they got due to their "location adjustment"

    the Prius rated at 50 mpg always gets 44 mpg on their test, which means "real LA world" numbers should be about 88% of EPA.

    soooo, hmmm, .88 * 265 = 233.2 so they actually did BETTER than "I" expected. now, you need to determine your "real world" number. on my Prius, i average 55 mpg when i am trying (which is pretty much 100% of the time) so i would get about 291.5 miles from a Tesla

    to summarize; YMMV. hmmm?? where have I heard that before?

  12. Let's see the what the range is in five years.

  13. extra *the*...typo

  14. Motor Trend did give an "extended range charge". However, these were the factors that contributed to the lower range. Speeds of 65 or more were reached. The terrain was hilly. The car had grippy performance tires. There was contrary wind. The window were down some of the time. They did accelerate hard and use the friction brakes sometimes.

    I predict that owners traveling on the interstates will achieve less than 200 miles because they will carry bags of stuff at 75 mph and multiple people. However, Tesla Superchargers need to be in place before owners can start driving "800 miles-a-day" road trips.

    However, I still plan to own one because of its many amazing capabilities. This car can do things that very few other cars can.

  15. You people really need to get a life! I am an Engineer and I am not that anal!

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